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(Very) Moving Pictures

We’ve seen image-based digital content evolve from heavy-handed clip “art” to nearly theater-quality movie files. Video has become the essential story-telling tool for all manner of brands. It is available in an increasingly wide variety of structured formats, as well as standard point-and-shoot films. Hardware needs can be as basic as a tablet, smartphone, or camera, along with a tripod and lavalier mic; when not bundled into an app, intuitive editing software is easily mastered.

 

From straightforward demonstration videos to interviews with thought-leaders, videos bring viewers into the message. More than 50% of marketing professionals single out the medium as having the best ROI of all content types; Forrester Research reports that the chances of getting a page-one listing on Google increase 53 times with a video asset.

 

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Vine is a short-form, video sharing service; the app produces six-second video loops that can be oddly mesmerizing. Owned by Twitter, Vine (supported by iOS/OSX, Android, and Windows operating systems) currently has 200 million users, making it an appealing vehicle for mobile marketing. Think of Vine as the video equivalent of “Headline News”; its abbreviated length is compatible with too-busy viewers—not to mention short attention spans.

 

Even the humble GIF (Graphic Interface Format) can tell a story. Firmly grounded in pop culture, it’s essentially a visual one-liner. Its simple, low-tech animation quality makes it suitable for humorous, ironic, or satirical subject matter. But in the hands of architect Axel de Stampa, whose Architecture Animée project is excerpted in the above clip, the format offers a thought-provoking way of looking at space, time, and form.

Many cameras feature GIF-creating modes. Online generators abound; one of the best is Giphy, which also offers creative content services to clients.

 

 

 

Writing for the Web

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Once upon a time, basic writing skills centered on spelling and syntax. Now, for web-focused writing, a facility with algorithms can be added to that list. Of course, that expertise is actually the dominion of search engines, which filter and favor content that best conforms to their models. ¶ Three tools have emerged as effective readership boosters for online messaging and communications.

 

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Hashtags

Since 2007, the punctuation mark formerly known as “pound sign” has been utilized as a label for themes or topics appearing in social media content. Placed in front of a word or phrase, hashtags are often used to tag special events (#usopen2016), people (#georgewashington), or simple ideas (#happy).

Tweets with hashtags receive more than twice the reader engagement than hashtag-less comments. But—of course—there is a limit to that logic. Tweets that include more than two hashtags see a 17% drop in engagement.

Care should be taken to ensure using a hashtag doesn’t backfire, transforming into a “bashtag”. A prime example of this occurred when investment bank J.P. Morgan invited the Twitterverse to converse with its new incoming president. Instead of polite queries about fiduciary matters, #AskJPM attracted a tidal wave of comments like “Would you say that your absurd disregard for long-term profits in favor of short-term illusory growth is evil, or just stupid? #AskJPM”. The moral of this story: Control the conversation.

 

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Keywords

Carefully chosen keywords, seeded throughout your online content, work to attract search engines—and, in turn, readers. Being both strategic and specific with the words delivers the best results.

Include terms or phrases that your customers would use to describe your products or services, and group them into themes. For instance, an architecture firm looking to build its reputation as a specialist in designing contemporary art museums might designate the three phrases—“modern architecture”, “museum design”, and “cultural buildings”—as keywords on its website and social media programming. Such verbal reinforcement would be more effective than just “art museum”.

 

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Links

One of the ways that search engines measure a website’s value—and its all-important position in search results—is by algorithmically evaluating the quantity, quality, and relevance of links to the site from other websites.

Down-and-somewhat-dirty ways to increase the link traffic to and from a site abound (and often involve payment), but these spammish practices are detected by major search engines relatively easily. Being exposed for using such unscrupulous techniques can result in being penalized with temporary suspensions by, for instance, Google. It’s best to build links organically, through offering content and services with integrity.

The ideal length for an effective hyperlink is between one and five words; place the link anchor on the word or phrase that best describes the content to which you are linking (put another way, do not link the generic, meaningless phrase “click here”.)

Express Yourself

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Filled with optimism and resolve, at the start of this new year we’re looking at ways to take communicating—both verbally and visually—to the next level.

Writing is a stressful experience. Here’s a few tips to keep you on track and fresh.

Think long, write short

If you have a tendency to ramble in your writing, or if sequencing information in a logical way is a perpetual challenge, make an outline. It will not only organize your composition, it will organize your thinking—and that’s the key to clarity. To quote revered adman George Lois: “It’s not how short you make it, it’s how you make it short.”

 

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Watch your language

Just because we live in a soundbite world doesn’t mean your writing has to be rote. If it is, your message will be absorbed into the media echo chamber that rings with clichés, jargon, and slang. Adding dimension and color to your writing will take time, but it will set you—and what you have to say—apart from the cacophony.

 

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Solicit comments, not corrections

By asking a colleague or friend to edit your writing, you put them on the spot to deliver a line-by-line critique of your document. Instead, try giving them a more general prompt, like “Is there anything in this presentation that’s hard to understand?” or “Do you think I’ve left out anything important?”

 

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Go off script

Writing for pleasure—as opposed to work-related assignments—can be a tonic. Without the pressure of a deadline, words and thoughts often flow more freely, and then the writing process becomes a pleasure instead of a grind. A private journal, a public blog, even crossword puzzles can help keep your mind nimble.

 

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To be a better writer, be a better reader

The best way to nourish your inner wordsmith is to read. It’s like taking a master class in vocabulary improvement. Spend time with a newspaper, magazine, or a novel and you’ll come away enriched.

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